Your customers are right

Recently, Dell launched a website where they could get ideas and feedback from their customers.

It’s an interesting method of gathering information. I’ve worked for some companies that feel that they know better than their customers when it comes to what customers want. When certain problems or suggestions have been brought up, it has been heard, “…those people aren’t in our target demographic.”

I must admit (as if you couldn’t tell from previous posts) that I’m a bit of a Linux and open source fan. It really tickles me to see the top voted suggestions so far:

  1. Pre-installed Linux
  2. Pre-installed OpenOffice.org
  3. Linux laptop
  4. No extra software option
  5. Firefox pre-installed as default browser

I don’t want to get distracted with the specific suggestions, but want to focus on the overall concept. This is a great, open feedback loop that Dell has setup. I’m not sure if it’s is a result of Michael Dell recently returning to the helm of the company or not.

Now for the real question; Would it be a good idea for Dell to implement these suggestions? Of course the answer is YES! (and not just because I’m a Linux fan.) Here is the big reason why: The mavens are voting.

The people that take the time to post suggestions to their website and vote on them will be unpaid salespeople for the company. What kind of person is making suggestions and voting on them? They are the geeks (which should be obvious by the current top suggestions.) Dell should care about geeks. As a geek, I get a lot of people asking me what kind of computer they should get. Most people that ask are looking for a computer that they can use for e-mail, browsing, listening to music and word processing. Currently, my response is, “If you can afford it, get a Mac. They’re easy to use and reliable” (did I mention that I’m a UNIX fan too?) “If a Mac is out of your price range, just look at the least expensive option from HP/Dell/IBM/Toshiba/… That will meet your needs.” If I knew that Dell supported the running of Linux on their systems, I might change that statement to, “Get a Dell, they run Linux. It won’t crash like your Windows machine does. If you have extra money to burn, get a Mac instead.”

There may be increased support and development costs that go with implementing many of the suggestions, but those costs would be dwarfed by the sales resulting from those techies that now think, “Dell is alright.”

So far, it looks like Dell gets it. It’ll be interesting to see how quickly and effectively they implement these suggestions.